The last few days have seen nothing but multiple xperiments with reconfiguring the gameplay for Gratuitous Tank Battles until I hit the magic balance of excitement, fun and spectacle. This game design business is tricky stuff!
Tower defense is an accepted, well-known formula, but tower ‘attack’ is not, and at the very least, I want to ship a game that is fun to play as both attacker and defender in tower-defense style. So with that in mind, I played the game a lot and concluded that it had lots of design issues. The main one was traffic jams. I was trying to design a simple ‘starter’ map that had a single weaving path between towers, and you would place your units and away they would march. The problem was, that when you spot a certain difficult tower ahead, it’s all very well placing a unit that you think counters it, but that unit is then stuck behind 15 other units before it gets there.
Initially I’d been scared of multiple paths for all maps, because of the complexity for the player, frantically scrolling around. Then I realised that if the paths were vaguely parallel, this problem went away. if I shrunk down the map a bit, I could fit the whole screen in with one look (when zoomed out), and could get more of a grip on it, even with multiple paths.
There have been a whole host of other changes as a result. Lots of balance changes, plus the introduction of ‘supply drops’ which automatically drop on the path in the quietest areas of the map, thus encouraging the attacker to spread his attack over multiple routes. That seems to work, as it’s a nice trade-off between ‘those supplies look tempting’ and ‘I ‘m kinda fully committed to attacking this route instead’. Parallel groups of paths also encourage complementary units, so repair wagons can trundle along beside assault mechs, etc, and a sluggish or damaged tank doesn’t bring the whole army to a halt (just half of it :D) I have full support for units stepping sideways around such blockages, I just need to try it and see how it goes.
I have some crappy placeholder art still in the game, and tons to do, but the last few days, where I’ve totally ignored graphics and only fiddled with mechanics and balance, seems to be paying off nicely. It feels more like a game now, and less like a tech demo. I also ditched fog of war, although it may well return in certain modes.